Sophie Hitchon nails place at Olympics

LONDON-BOUND: Sophie Hitchon
LONDON-BOUND: Sophie Hitchon

SOPHIE Hitchon has guaranteed a place with Team GB at the Olympics after breaking her UK hammer record for the third time this year.

The 20-year-old passed the Olympic A qualifying standard mark of 71.50m twice on Thursday in the Olympic training centre in Chula Vista, California, with her best throw going out to 71.61 metres.

And while she was all but assured of selection beforehand, by virtue of consistently passing the B standard of 69m, but she is now a certainty to be at London 2012.

Last year Hitchon achieved the B standard of 69m three times, but had to achieve that twice further from April 1st, when the qualification period began, to July 8th.

Hitchon did that in four of six throws at the Mount Sac relays in California last week.

However, to guarantee a place with Team GB, she had to hit the A standard twice, and now the pressure is off after another superb performance.

A National Olympic Committee can enter up to three qualified athletes in each individual event if all athletes meet the A standard, or one athlete per event if they meet the B standard.

Last month she set a new British record by throwing 70.40m in Loughborough, beating her own mark of 69.59, and she increased that distance to 70.47m at the Mount Sac relays last weekend.

And Hitchon beamed: “I feel really good and training out here has gone really well.

“It’s just really good to repeat it in competition. I love competing - I don’t want to be one of those who says, ‘I’m throwing this in training’ but can’t reproduce it in competition.”

“I think the A standard takes the pressure off my mind, the last few competitions I possibly tried too hard but now I can relax and compete to the best of my abilities.”

The World junior champion’s performances suggest a place in the final in London is a realistic target, and her continuous improvement suggests a medal is a possibility at a Games, if not this summer.

Hammer throwers tend to peak in their late 20s, and coach Derek Evely said: “I think 72m or 73m is not out of the question this year.

“Sophie is a really great competitor and always performs well in that scenario. She’s had a great camp out here in the States and she’s been throwing 70-plus daily, we just needed to let it happen in competition, and she threw it twice here.”